What Being a Christian Entrepreneur Means to Me

I’ve never been one of those guys who uses his faith as a “hook.” It’s never been part of my sales pitch.

But I’m not shy about being a Christian.

I had the chance to talk with Roger Bush about where my business life meets my spiritual life on the Entrepreneur By Faith podcast last week.

Roger asked a question I’ve never answered publicly; he asked me to describe a failure I’ve experienced in my business. The story I told isn’t something I should be ashamed of, but a big part of me didn’t want to talk about this. Only a few people had heard this story…until now.

It’s strangely liberating to let the cat out of the bag. But I’m not going to let it out here. You gotta listen to the podcast.

Check out the 43-minute interview here: Entrepreneur By Faith Episode 3.

Listen to the other interviews on the site, too. You’ll get to know some great people and get inspiration, encouragement and direction at the same time.

Update: The URL where this interview was previously located is currently unavailable. You can listen to the audio at the bottom of this post.

P.S. Roger got in touch with me after reading Unexpected Insights for the Christian Entrepreneur Pt. 1. If you’re a Christian running a business — a secular business, in particular — you might find some helpful ideas in that series.

twittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailtwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Unexpected Insights for the Christian Entrepreneur Pt. 6

The Necessity of Copywriting for Christian Entrepreneurs in Spiritual or Secular Businesses

“If you talk to people in a language they don’t understand, how will they know what you mean? You might as well be talking to an empty room.”1 Corinthians 14:9

Unexpected Insight part 5 was about writing for ministry purposes. I want to get back to talking about business.

One of the most important qualities of strong copy is clarity.

As a writer, you should be easy to understand, and you should attempt to make the world easier to understand through your writing. No one wants more complexity in their lives. Colin Powell is quoted as saying “Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers.” Donnie Bryant says that great writers are almost always great clarifiers.

Have you ever visited a website that made absolutely no sense to you? Read a letter that confused you instead of answering your questions? How does that experience make you feel about the other party?

Yet so many businesses I know spend as little time as possible putting together their messaging. They see it as a chore to get out of the way. “Let’s get to the selling!”

But confused prospects never buy.

Weak copy doesn’t answer questions, overcome skepticism, or demonstrate value.

What would happen if prospects were smarter and better-informed just for having visited your website? How much more likely are they to trust you over the guy who just threw some words on the page? How much more likely are they to believe that you understand them? How much more likely are they to connect with you and buy from you?

You must be able to write copy in an engaging, easy to understand way. Avoid trying to impress your readers. They’re not reading your message to admire your vocabulary or sentence structure. Gene Schwartz said that if someone read an advertisement and their response was “that was a great ad,” the ad was a failure. Instead, the reader should come away with a greater appreciation for, understanding of and desire for the product and the benefits that come with it.

This isn’t poetry.

Horace Greeley said that “The best style of writing, as well as the most forcible, is the plainest.” Say what needs to be said in the most consumable way possible.

You will lose a lot of readership by using big words, convoluted sentences and ambiguous statements.

Write and speak to be understood, not to impress. Not to make yourself feel smart. The Bible says that if the trumpet gives an uncertain sound, who will prepare himself for battle (1 Corinthians 14:8)?

Let there be no uncertainty in how you write. Business is no place for poetry or ambiguity. Clarity is of the utmost importance.

Spend the time necessary to write clearly and convincingly. You’ll never regret doing so. Or, enlist the help of someone you can trust to do a great job writing for you.

What’s the point of communicating if the reader doesn’t know what you’re saying?

—–

If you missed them, you can read Parts 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 of this series.

twittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailtwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Unexpected Insights for the Christian Entrepreneur Pt. 5

The Dangers of Christian Copywriting

“…preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.” 1 Corinthians 1:17 KJV

“…When I came to you…not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God…And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom…”1 Corinthians 2:1,4 KJV

Ministry is not business. As such, ministries should not “market” in the traditional sense.

Not everyone will agree with this, but I’ve yet to find any way to justify using the idea that churches and para-church organizations should be treated the same way as secular businesses.

I’m not saying that marketing is bad. I’m not saying that persuasion is evil. Actually, I hold the opposite opinion.

But you can’t get around Scripture. In Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth, he says a mouthful about his preaching and his approach to ministry.

Paul was among the most educated men of his day. He was a gifted orator with a brilliant mind, and he understood people (the human condition, the heart) probably as well as anyone in history. If anyone could have utilized “excellency of speech” or the “wisdom of words” to persuade his hearers, it would have been him.

But he refused to do so.

He knew that the gospel is a demonstration of God’s power, not of the speaker’s intelligence or ability to create emotional impact. Christians must rely on the Holy Spirit to convict and teach (John 16:8, 13).

As a copywriter, I spend a lot of time learning about persuasion, and I seek to gain mastery of the English language. But as a Bible teacher, I put all of that stuff to the side (Philippians 3:6). It would be harmful for me to depend on those skills to do work only God can do by His Spirit and His Word.

All I ask is this: any copywriters who are working to grow ministries, please don’t put your trust in your skills or abilities. God will build His church (Matthew 16:18) using his method: the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:3) working through men and women committed to sharing His gift of eternal life with a dying world.

P.S.  I don’t mean to imply that the words used to promote ministry should not be carefully chosen. They clearly do. Just listen to Ravi Zacharias or R.C. Sproul; these are brilliant men who can use language as skillfully as anyone on the planet. But they don’t rely on copywriting tricks, NLP or other gimmicks to get their points across. The content speaks, the audience listens and the Lord edifies.

——

Read Parts 1, 2, 3 and 4 of the Unexpected Insight series.

twittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailtwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Unexpected Insights for the Christian Entrepreneur Pt.3

(If you didn’t read Part 2 of this series, check it out here)

“Let us stop just saying we love each other; let us really show it by our actions.”1 John 3:18 (NLT)

I think if I had one message to share with the world it would be this: IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU. This idea applies to every area of life. Let’s focus on how it pertains to business for now.

Businesses don’t exist for their own sakes. Sure, you become entrepreneurs to earn money and to try to live the life you dream of. Hopefully you also hope to make the world a better place and improve the lives of others through your work. But ultimately, your business is not about you.

Walmart founder Sam Walton reminds us that “There is only one boss. The customer.” Without customers, you have a hobby, not a business. So why do so many companies treat their customers and clients like anything less than the very reason they exist?

Why do many entrepreneurs fall in love with their product or service, to the detriment of the people who they are designed to serve? Theodore Levitt gives some terrific illustrations of this point in an article he wrote for the Harvard Business Review in 1975 called “Marketing Myopia.” Using examples from Hollywood to oil companies to railroads, Levitt shows numerous billion dollar mistakes companies and entire industries have made because of their preoccupation with their products instead of their customers. Many businesses have made themselves obsolete in the process.

(I strongly encourage you to read “Marketing Myopia” and take notes. The historical and practical lessons are profoundly valuable.)

Instead of being enamored with what we offer, we need to make our customers our number one business priority. How do our products serve them? How do they want to be served? How could they benefit them even more according to their expressed desire?

Elsewhere I have called this mentality “lowercase syndrome.”

As a Christian entrepreneur, you put God first, others (aka your customers/clients) second and yourself last. You should esteem others more highly than yourself, offering yourself as a servant, even as Christ humbled Himself to become a servant (Philippians 2:3-7).

Should you try to earn as much money as possible? Absolutely! Do it by offering the most value in the marketplace, becoming the most trusted provider of whatever you sell and making it as easy as possible for your ideal customers to buy from or work with you.

(John Wesley, founder of the Methodist church, had 3 rules concerning money. The first rule is to make as much as you can.)

For many of us, business is what the Lord has purposed for our lives. Do you think He designed a plan for you that required you to focus on yourself, your needs, your desires? Of course not. Selfishness is never God’s desire. He wants you to consider the needs of the people around you. Your business might be one of His ways to help you think about yourself even less.

Be a good steward of your opportunities. Be a blessing to each and every one of your customers instead of thinking of them as walking dollar signs.

In the words of advertising legend Leo Burnett, “What helps people, helps business.” I think God is pleased with that.

twittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailtwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Unexpected Insights for the Christian Entrepreneur Pt. 2

Read Part 1 of Unexpected Insight for the Christian Entrepreneur.

“On hearing it, many of his disciples said, ‘This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?’ Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, ‘Does this offend you?

“From this time many… turned back and no longer followed him.” – John 6:60-61,67 (NIV)

Although Jesus’ spoke His words to everyone, they weren’t accepted by everyone. In fact, scripture says that many people deserted Him because of His teaching.

Was this a surprise? Of course not. Verse 64 indicates that Jesus knew some would stumble. So why did He say what He did, knowing that He would alienate a significant portion of His audience?

Because the truth is the truth, no matter who rejects it. The truth will appeal to some and offend others. But the essential message itself must never be changed or watered down to make it more palatable to a wider “market.”

What in the world does this have to do with your business? More than you may think. Take a look at this Charles Atlas advertisements from the 1930s:

COMICAD_charles_atlas_3

Can you think of anyone who might find this (or the many other similar ads he ran) offensive? Did the potential backlash stop him from running them (and making a huge impact on the culture of the day)? Clearly not.

Atlas wasn’t worried about the people who might not like what he had to say. He wasn’t trying to convince them of anything. But the men who could relate to these messages were more than happy to send him money.

This is what Charles Atlas stood for, and he became an icon taking that stand in his unique, in-your-face manner.

So, what’s at the heart of your business, product or service? What do you stand for? Boldly take your stand right there, even though some people won’t like it.

(Example: In the copywriting arena, there’s always the long copy vs. short copy debate, or direct marketing vs. Madison Avenue-style general advertising. It’s simple enough to pick a side, and when you do, you instantly inherit opposition.)

There are 3 kinds of people you’ll encounter: 1) people who want what you offer, and with whom you can have a mutually profitable relationship, 2) those who never intend to buy from you and 3) people who don’t know you. If you want your business to become everything it’s capable of becoming, you need to tell your story, stand up for your position and be yourself. You and your message will resonate strongly with the people in group #1.

Who cares about group #2? Does it matter if they hate your ads or are offended by your stance on issues?

Individuals in the 3rd group will self-select their way into one of the first 2 groups as they get to know you.

Here’s the thing: if you dilute your message to appeal to everyone, it’s more difficult to tell the difference between people who are really with you and the ones that are “tire kickers.”

“Hard sayings” have a way of pre-qualifying your crowd.

In His 3 year earthly ministry, Jesus never backed away from the speaking the truth, even when it was harsh. As a result, He made more enemies than true followers. But in the subsequent months and years, those faithful few turned the world upside down for Him.

So here’s the point (which I’ve probably taken too long to get to): you can water down your message or choose not to take a bold stance on issues that are important to you and you’ll have access to a bigger crowd. But that crowd will be full of lukewarm listeners.

On the other hand, you can tell your story full-strength and create fired-up disciples and evangelists along with some folks who really dislike you and your cause. But there will be no lukewarmness.

Which way will you choose?

Tags: “christian entrepreneur”  business  marketing  advertising  messaging  bible

twittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailtwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Unexpected Insights for the Christian Entrepreneur, Pt. 1

“The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory rests with the LORD.” Proverbs 21:31 (NIV)

There is an interesting dynamic at play that Christian entrepreneurs in every industry have to deal with: finding a balance between taking action and having faith in God as Provider. How do we avoid going to one extreme or the other?

The verse above paints a clear picture we can apply to our business lives.

As people of faith, we know that God has promised to supply all of our needs (Philippians 4:19), and we should trust Him fully for this provision. But does that mean we sit idle and wait for Him to do all the work? Obviously not.

Ultimately, victory and success comes from His hand. (That’s even true for people who don’t believe it!) But He still expects us to “make the horse ready for battle.” It’s less a matter of God “helping those who help themselves” (which isn’t in the Bible, by the way), and more an issue of cooperating with what He wants to do.

In most cases, the Lord uses His people to accomplish his will in the world. He works through us. E.M. Bounds said that “Men are God’s method…When God declares that “the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him,” he declares the necessity of men and his dependence on them as a channel through which to exert his power upon the world.

He wants us to be willing co-workers (1 Corinthians 3:9).

What does that mean in practical terms?

It means do your part. If you want to win the battle, you have to prepare the horses. If you want to get customers, you have to market your products or services. If you want to retain clients, you have to treat them right and provide them with real value.

Do the best work you possibly can, then leave the results up to your Provider.

Read Unexpected Insights for the Christian Entrepreneur Pt. 2.

twittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailtwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail